PAN, October 28, 2009

Residents fear deaths if roads remain blocked in north

According to residents, every year tens of pregnant women die due to problems in carrying them to hospital

Jafar Tayar

Residents of five districts in northeastern Badakhshan province on Wednesday said they could die of starvation due to shortage of food stuffs if roads blocked by continued events of snow avalanches were not cleared.

The snowfall has blocked several parts of the highways connecting Raghistan, Yawan, Kuhistan, Shaghnan and Kofab districts to provincial capital Faizabad. Residents of these areas fear the blockades could lead to severe shortage of foods.

More than 1.6 million under-five children and hundreds of thousands of vulnerable women are exposed to acute malnutrition and some could die this winter due to food insecurity and lack of medical care, the government has warned. "Around 1.6 million children under five and 625,000 child-bearing-age women are at risk of dying this winter due to malnutrition," the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said in a statement (in English) on 25 November.
IRIN, Nov. 27, 2008

Abdul Latif, a resident of Kofab district, who has come to Faizabad city for purchasing food items, was unable to return home due to blockade of the highway. He told Pajhwok Afghan News they reach Faizabad from their district after traveling for a whole day by vehicles while on foot it takes five days to reach here.

Latif was not the single person stranded in Fiazabad, but like him a large number of people are unable to go to their hometowns awaiting removal of the snow. "I bought some items and want to go back home but the bus drivers say the highway is still blocked due to snowfalls," said Latif.

"People in bordering districts may lose their lives if the snow continued to fall and if the dwellers are not provided food items and other materials on emergency basis by government or other organizations," said a provincial council member, Zabihullah Attique.

However, the World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday said it was moving tens of thousands of metric tons of food to remote areas of the country in preparation for the rapidly approaching winter.

Pre-positioning food before heavy snowfall begins will allow the WFP to continue providing desperately needed assistance to vulnerable Afghans during the harsh winter months.

The regional director of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) Dr. Syed Naseer Himmat on the other hand complains about inadequate efforts on the part of the authorities concerned to clear the roads of snow for traffic.

He said his organization had insufficient food items and other materials for distribution among the needy families during emergency situations such as earthquake, floods and other natural disasters.

The northeastern mountainous province of Badakhshan that borders the neighbouring Tajikistan, Pakistan and China every year witnesses heavy snowfalls during the winter season. According to residents, every year tens of pregnant women die due to problems in carrying them to hospital.

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